Many school districts in the Syracuse area have recently adopted an initiative to foster understanding and trust within the school community through student-led discussions known as dialogue circles. Among the districts that have implemented these dialogue circles are Fayetteville-Manlius, Baldwinsville, Corcoran, Nottingham, and now, Jamesville-DeWitt.
“The initiative for dialogue circles came out of a group of teachers who were reading a book that had to do with race, which brought up a lot of good conversations. Delving into these conversations, we became aware of this group called InterFaith Works that does these dialogue circles. We felt we wanted to try having a dialogue circle here because we have a fairly diverse population within the school,” said Social Worker Mr. Hartley.
Dialogue circles are led with the goal to provide a safe, supportive space in which participants facilitate open, direct communication to talk about sensitive topics, work through differences, and build consensus throughout the community.
“The idea behind the dialogue circles is to have a diverse group of kids—different backgrounds, different political ideologies, different perspectives—and then to bring these kids together to have conversations about bridging one another’s differences to form a cohesive community,” said Principal Gasparini.
The current youth is recognized to be more politically involved and active than any other. Although this allows for unique personal growth and development, it also produces controversy within the school community. “We hope that dialogue circles are a place where people can have good conversations about difficult topics. We’re hoping that kids can learn from other kids,” said Mr. Hartley.
“We’re not looking for an echo chamber, we’re looking for a place for people that like to have conversations and are interested in learning about other people’s opinions can have a place to talk,” said Mr. Hartley. Students who fit this criteria are encouraged to submit their interest to potentially receive the opportunity to participate in these sessions.
On Friday, October 8, an informational meeting will be held for interested students during Activity Period. Tuesday, October 12 marks the deadline to submit an interest statement. On Friday, October 15, participants will be notified whether or not they were chosen to partake in this fall’s sessions. Students who were not selected will be eligible for the spring sessions or next year’s sessions. The first dialogue circle session will be held on Monday, October 18.